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Parents' Traumatic Childhood can Cause Behavioral Issues in Their Children

Parents' Traumatic Childhood can Cause Behavioral Issues in Their Children

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  • Children born to parents who have had a traumatic childhood are more likely to develop behavioral disorders and mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), addiction and sleep problems
  • Identifying children at risk of developing mental health problems is essential so that they can be referred to counseling and social services for evaluation to prevent or reduce future risk
  • It is estimated that the occurrence of mental health issues in children is about 10-20% globally but many remain undiagnosed and untreated, resulting in learning difficulties, lack of social skills, aggressive behavior, criminal tendencies and even suicide

Parents who had stressful and traumatic childhood are more likely to have children with behavioral problems, according to a recent 'first of its kind' study conducted by scientists at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Health Sciences. The findings of the study appear in the journal Pediatrics.


"Previous research has looked at childhood trauma as a risk factor for later physical and mental health problems in adulthood, but this is the first research to show that the long-term behavioral health harms of childhood adversity extend across generations from parent to child," said the study's lead author, Dr. Adam Schickedanz. He is a pediatrician and health services researcher and assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Details and Findings of the Study

Scientists collected data from a national survey containing information about four generations of American families, including information from parents about their childhood experiences and history of physical abuse, ill-treatment, neglect by parents, and other stresses while growing up, and information about behavior problems in their offspring including medical diagnoses of attention deficit disorder.

Using the above data, they were able to find a strong relation between the parents' stressful and traumatic childhood experiences and behavioral issues in their children, after taking into account other influencing factors such as family poverty and education level that could increase the risk.
  • The types of childhood hardships parents had faced included divorce or separation of parents, physical abuse, parental neglect, sexual abuse, the death of or estrangement from a parent, witnessing violence at home, exposure to substance abuse in the household or mental illness in their parents
  • The study found that parents who had four or more traumatic childhood experiences were at twice the risk of having children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and four times more likely to have mental health problems
  • Interestingly, in this study, a mother's childhood experiences had a bigger influence on the child's behavioral health compared to the father's experiences
  • Parents who underwent damaging childhood experiences were more likely to report mental health issues as parents or an increase in pre-existing symptoms
  • Parent's mental health and childhood factors were found to partially explain (about 25 percent) the increased behavioral risks in their children. Further studies are needed to find how the rest of the parental childhood experiences are passed on and impact their child's behavior
Thus the study seems to suggest a strong association between a parent's stressful childhood experiences and mental health issues in their offspring.

The findings of the study further support the need to routinely take into account or note a parent's childhood experiences as a standard procedure during their kid's pediatrician visits.

"If we can identify these children who are at a higher risk, we can connect them to services that might reduce their risk or prevent behavioral health problems," said Schickedanz.

Tips to Cope With Behavioral Problems In Children

  • Talk and explain to the child why it is necessary to do or not do certain things
  • Try not to overreact - stay calm and don't show your anger or frustration
  • Offer rewards for good behavior - (don't offer rewards to do something, it becomes a bribe)
  • Be consistent in your approach
  • Avoid spanking or yelling either in public or private
  • Praise good behavior and be positive about good things
  • Be patient and don't give up too easily - it might take a while to see changes
Reference :
  1. Adam Schickedanz, Neal Halfon, Narayan Sastry, Paul J. Chung, "Parents' Adverse Childhood Experiences and Their Children's Behavioral Health Problems" (2018) Pediatrics

Source: Medindia

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